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Getting your life in order

FEATUREwill

Have you ever thought about death? You’d be forgiven if you haven’t – it’s a scary thought, after all. It’s not an easy subject to bring up in conversation, yet they say the only true certainties in life are death and taxes, so it has to come up eventually. As a society, we’d often rather put off having a proper talk about ‘the end’ with our loved ones until another day, but the problem with that is that it could happen at any time. It’s far more responsible to get your affairs in order sooner rather than later to prevent any unnecessary pain for your loved ones.

Writing your will

It’s never too early or unnecessary to make your last will and testament – I did mine recently and I’m in my early twenties with no spouse or kids. If you haven’t written your will yet, you need to – without one, your nearest and dearest may have no idea what your wishes are or even if they do, they won’t have a legal document to back it up.

Without a will;

  • your assets could end up in limbo or never make it to the people you want to have them,
  • your funeral wishes may not be honored, and
  • your family could get tangled in costly legal disputes over your estate.

If you’re not sure where to start, thankfully the internet provides access to a wealth of information without necessarily having to engage an expensive lawyer. Here’s some helpful resources for each of the states and territories as there are some different legal requirements in each one:

Once you’ve written your will, you’ll typically need to get it witnessed by one or two people. In many cases this can be anyone as long as they don’t benefit from the will (so you don’t necessarily have to hunt down a notary public) but be sure to check the resources above for the right information for your state or territory.

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Making death less difficult

There are lot of aspects about your passing that may not necessarily be explicitly outlined in your will. Many standard will templates focus on your financial estate and not much else. Consider the following:

  • If you have dependents, who would look after them? Have you named a guardian?
  • Should you consider taking out a life insurance policy and establishing a trust to provide for your dependents?
  • Do you have any specific funeral or burial wishes? Would you prefer another option like cremation or donating your body to medical research?
  • Are you a registered organ donor? If not, you could make a huge difference to someone’s life.
  • Is there a particular charity you’d like your everyday items, such as clothes or furniture, to be donated to?

Your next of kin should know these things. Everyone should set the time aside to write a will and make their wishes known for the peace of mind that when they do pass away, their friends and family will have clear instructions on what to do. They’ll be able to focus on grieving the loss of a loved one instead, and in the end, that’s what the hardest part of a death is always going to be.

If you’re having trouble dealing with the loss of a loved one, you can access information and counselling by calling Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

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15 comments

  1. TONI ANGENENT says:

    Hi Gina, thankyou for this timely reminder that we are all mortal & need to make our passing as easy as poss for our loved ones. Along the same lines, you might cosider continuing the theme with an article on Enduring Powers of Guardianship & Attorney, which come into effect if we become physically or mentally incapacitated. G’ship can be particularly useful to remove from distraught rellies excruciating decision-making re such things as whether to place you in residential care, or whether to resuscitate or turn off life support. Attorney deals with who will look after your finances &assets in such circumstances. Thanks again.

  2. Janice says:

    Good on you for pointing out that dying can happen at any age.

    You forgot a couple of important aspects of dying as compared to being dead. There is great potential benefit in determining who would look after your affairs if you are no longer capable but not yet dead e.g. have had a stroke or heart attack or been injured seriously in a car accident.

    First point is an Alternative Health Directive, in which you can show legally what treatments you may and specifically may not want or would permit if you are unable to communicate this, also can appoint someone to make such decisions on your behalf. Secondly, appoint someone as a trustee to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are medically incapable.

  3. Jan says:

    There is much more to this topic, such as Powers of Attorney, both medical and financial, appointing an enduring guardian AND preparing a document which sets out how you want your final days to play out in the event of a terminal illness or injury. This is currently a very complex topic, BUT it all starts with a talk with family members, who need to know AND UNDERSTAND your wishes, so that intra-family conflict can be mimimised, or even absent altogether when the time comes. Talk to your GP, your family legal adviser AND your family about this very important topic while there are no confounding threats of serious illness around to cloud one’s judgement. Set up regular reviews, possibly annually, to ensure it all stays up to date, and ESPECIALLY when the composition of families change – new partners, children etc. It’s a good habit to adopt, and one which all families should embrace. It is, after all, the ultimate in succession planning!

  4. Christopher says:

    Thank you for the information, I don’t know why you are worried about my death, my family will take care of all that, l am a born Christan I believe in life and death as the same, if we die we die to the Lord, But I need to tell you and your telecom partners you are the ones who drive people to their early graves, you must be knowing that that why you are thinking in those lines, come on get your act together, then every one will live longer,

    P

  5. Jane Doe says:

    Seriously I don’t want this advice from my internet company. Friday night after work… Have you thought about death?
    Of course most people have but do I want to think about it now – no
    Let’s leave this to other more professionally aligned organisations and families.

  6. Anna Saxon says:

    It is also very important to make an Advance health care plan, and have that discussion with family and friends so that your wishes are known. For example do you wish to be resucitated? This does not just apply to the elderly! Which is more important to you, quality or quantity of life? Who do you want to make decisions for you if you are not capable of doing so yourself? An enduring Power of Attorney is important for health as well as financial decisions. At the very least TALK with your closest family or friends so they know what you want for yourself!

  7. Phil Dye says:

    Good advice and a good reminder that we’re all human and will die.

    While making a will, also talk to your family about organ donation and your end of life choices. Do you want to be resuscitated if your future will be vegetative? If voluntary euthanasia becomes legal in Australia, will you utilize it if your final weeks will be painful and intolerable? What music do you want played at your funeral?

    It’s awful to think about, but we may not all benefit from negative gearing or gay marriage laws, but we’ll all die.

    Phil

  8. Garry Shipton says:

    This little bit of information from you has come at a very timely time, as I have been diagnosed with bowl cancer only this week, so this will be very helpful for me thank you.

    Garry

  9. Adrienne Ryan says:

    Great article Gina. As a Funeral Director I see everyday the huge difference it makes when someone has prepared (at any age) and put plans and finances in place for those left behind to easily follow and access. We prepare for so much in life and adding death to the list is an amazingly supportive act.

  10. Wayne says:

    Great reminder for everyone. May be you should also include an article on making sure love ones are able to access/clean-up your digital life after you’re deceased as well.

  11. Kath McKay says:

    Please could you provide some good advice on how to ‘leave’ your technological assets in your Will. It should be clear who ‘inherits’ or has responsibility for your email correspondence, your online family trees, your research, your publications, etc. etc. etc. Some advice from experts would be most helpful.

  12. Miranda says:

    Thank you for this – very timely. It would be great to have an article on what to do about online presence in the case of death.

  13. Hayden says:

    Thank you for your timely advice on wills.
    My father had only general instructions in his will, so his funeral proceeded according to the wishes of surviving family, maybe not his. We’ll never know.
    Your advice reminds me that I must get the finishing signatures on my Power of Attorney.
    Once again, many thanks for your care & advice.

  14. Jeanette Perry says:

    THINK I MAY DIE WAITING FOR HELP FROM IINET

    • Brianna Burgess says:

      Can see you’ve since been in touch with our Support (13 22 58) team, Jeanette. We’re confident they’ll be able to give you a hand! Let us know how it goes.

      – Brianna

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